NASHVILLE (Mar. 22, 2015) – A Tennessee bill that would nullify in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that prevent terminally ill patients from accessing treatments was passed unanimously through a state Senate committee last week. The vote was 9-0.
Introduced by Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Senate Bill 811 (SB811), the Tennessee Right to Try Act, is the latest pushback against the FDA and their controversial methodology of withholding experimental treatments from people even on their deathbed. It passed through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee by a 9-0 vote on March 18.
Under the bill, a patient suffering from a terminal disease attested to by a physician and who has considered all other approved treatment options will be able to try experimental treatments or drugs not yet approved by the FDA, effectively nullifying this narrow, but important set of federal restrictions.
“This bill is a no-brainer,” said Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center. “When someone is on their deathbed, the fact that FDA regulations would let them die rather than try, has got to be one of the most inhumane policies of the federal government. Every state should nullify the FDA like this.”
The bill protects those involved in prescribing experimental products and treatments as well. SB811 reads, in part:
A licensing board or disciplinary subcommittee shall not revoke, fail to renew, suspend, or take any action against a healthcare provider’s license… based solely on the healthcare provider’s recommendations to an eligible patient regarding access to or treatment with an investigational drug, biological product, or device.
SB811 makes up part of a greater trend sweeping the nation. During this most recent November election, Arizona residents approved Prop. 303, known as the Arizona Terminal Patients’ Right to Try Referendum. The proposition allows investigational drugs, biological products or devices to be made available to eligible terminally ill patients, not permitted under the FDA.
Legislatures in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Louisiana, have already passed Right to Try Laws similar to the Arizona amendment, and more than 20 states are considering such measures in 2015.
Although these laws only address one small aspect of FDA regulation, they provide us with a clear model demonstrating how to nullify federal statutes that violate the Constitution. The strategy narrows the influence of nullification to limited aspects of the law itself. The strategy works because it focuses on ending specific federal policies large numbers of Americans from across the political spectrum oppose.
SB811 will now be heard in the Senate Calendar Committee where it will likely be scheduled to be read and voted upon in the full state senate.